Saturday, March 20, 2010

Quick Review - Tokens of Trust

My standard "book review" caveat. I rarely have the time to give books a thorough enough treatment to really call what I write "a review." However, I do like to write a little something about the books I read, at least to share a little glimpse into what I am reading. There are always lots of great reviews out there if you are looking for some more depth.

I just finished Tokens of Trust by Rowan Williams. Williams is the Archbishop of Canterbury which makes him the spiritual leader of the Anglican Church. I purchased the book when Amazon recommended it because I am always looking for books in the "intro to Christianity" genre. I like books in this category for two reasons. First, I like to have a variety of books to offer to people who are exploring the Christian faith - modern seekers who are looking to me to offer something more than Scripture quotations to show them the meaning and relevance of Jesus. Second, my teaching tends to be primarily at the introductory level, so I love to read others articulating the faith at what they consider an introductory level. It helps me to add better language to my attempts to explain and share the principles. Williams' book helped me out in both areas.

I really enjoyed this book, but it is a little difficult to put a label on. Archbishop Williams interacts with The Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed to lay out the essentials of Christian faith and belief. He does so in a sort of mystical way. What we are left with is something that is oddly systematic and poetic. In a book that clocks in a 159 pages with lots of white space and wonderful pictures, the author dives into some of the most central and complex theological premises in Christianity. We get insight into the sacraments, eschatology (the study of the "last things"), ecclesiology (the study of the church), theodicy (the problem of evil), resurrection,prayer and our understanding of scripture.

There seems to be an underlying pattern of rational explanation followed by a challenge to leave room for the irrational. It is almost as if he tries to explain Christ and the church in ways our rational minds can understand and then tells us that this is all something that our rational minds cannot understand. Honestly, I like it.

I think that this is the sort of book I would like to put in the hands of my skeptic friends, especially the "thinkers" among them. Archbishop Williams writes in a compelling concrete way but challenges us to think in different ways - ways that can begin to articulate something that is beyond the concrete. Also, if you are in any of my classes, you are likely to hear some of Rowan Williams' language slip into my lectures.

If you have read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts. Please add them to the comments below.


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